Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Chinese premier have agreed to deepen their countries’ relationship and explore a possible free trade deal.
After meeting with Trudeau in Beijing, Chinese premier Li Keqiang said that Canada and China will launch a feasibility study on an eventual free-trade deal. A Canadian official later said the two counties have been engaged in ongoing technical discussions on free trade, but stressed that there are no negotiations under way at this point.
During his remarks, Trudeau noted that his father, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, played an important role in establishing a partnership between the two countries and he is “very happy to be extending that effort now.”
Speaking of trade, Trudeau says existing dockage rules with China on canola exports have been extended beyond a deadline of Thursday as the two countries continue to wrestle with a long-term solution.
Dockage, or the amount of foreign material such as weeds, continues to be an issue, but should be considered acceptable in Canada’s canola exports to China. The Chinese government had given Canada until Thursday to cut the level of foreign material in its deliveries by more than half.
Trudeau said the two countries will work together very closely to find a long-term solution in the coming days and weeks ahead. China currently buys 87 per cent of its canola from Canada because of its good quality and production.
Trudeau has also submitted Canada’s application to join a controversial new international infrastructure bank led by China.
China founded the US$100 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank late last year to provide other countries in the region access to cash for such areas as transportation, power and telecommunications. The Canadian government has not yet specified how much money it would put into the new bank.
The government says joining the bank will help Canada further engage in multilateral infrastructure efforts, and help pave the way for Canadian companies looking for new global business opportunities.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau says Ottawa believes the bank will make an important impact on the global economy, and therefore the Canadian economy, through infrastructure investments.
Human rights were also a topic of discussion in Bejing.
Trudeau says he “highlighted a number of consular cases” every time he’s had the opportunity to sit down with Chinese leaders, including that of Kevin Garratt, a Canadian imprisoned for more than two years in China on espionage charges.
Trudeau has indicated in the past that there’s no evidence to support the accusations against Garratt, though he did not say what China has told him about Garratt’s case.
The Chinese premier said through a translator that China is a country of the rule of law and that judicial authorities will handle cases in strict accordance with those laws. The Garratt family remains “extremely frustrated” by a lack of progress in securing his release and enabling him to obtain “critically-needed medical treatment.”